From left, Margo Martindale, Dylan Baker, Diane Lane, Otto Thorwarth,...

From left, Margo Martindale, Dylan Baker, Diane Lane, Otto Thorwarth, Nelsan Ellis, John Malkovich in a scene from the movie "Secretariat" directed by Randall Wallace. Credit: John Bramley

Like most based-on-a-true-story movies, "Secretariat'' takes liberties with some of the details in the name of clarity, drama or the whims of the screenwriter.

Despite that, two of the real-life central characters endorsed the film.

"It's not the exact story, but it's a film that all families would love,'' jockey Ron Turcotte said. "Some people that worked at the racetrack, especially in the 1970s, will probably find some discrepancies. But people who don't know more than that will all love it.''

Penny Chenery, Secretariat's owner and the primary focus of the film, said, "I was very pleased with it overall. It's really a wonderful feel-good show.''

Family-friendly it is, at the risk of bland, sports-film predictability. It does do one thing better than most of its predecessors in the horse racing movie genre - it realistically conveys the action on the track.

"I think they did a real good job recreating the races,'' said Turcotte, who was played by a real jockey, Otto Thorwarth.

(Thorwarth never had acted before. "The only acting I'd ever done was in the steward's office,'' he joked.)

Initially, director Randall Wallace planned to use a $1-million camera car to record the racing scenes. But he soon ditched that in favor of a store-bought $800 Olympus. "We literally took this little camera with high def memory and taped it on a stick and had a guy hang out of a car and drive with the horses,'' producer Mark Ciardi said. Thorwarth added, "There are points where people will feel like they are sitting on the horse."

To Chenery, the integrity of the racing scenes was crucial. "I'm proud of the movie,'' she said, "because it doesn't look fake.''

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